Lions set to release Damon Harrison, clearing nearly $7M in salary cap space

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions are planning on parting ways with defensive tackle Damon Harrison, a source familiar with the situation told The Detroit News Thursday night. 

Harrison, 31, had been contemplating retirement after an injury-riddled season when he missed his first game in seven years and played well below the lofty standards he'd established as one of the league's premier run-stuffers. 

Damon Harrison

After contemplating his future the past two months, Harrison now aims to play in 2020, but it won't be with the Lions, who will clear nearly $7 million in cap space with the move. 

The Lions acquired Harrison for a fifth-round pick in a mid-season trade from the New York Giants in 2018. His presence helped immediately transform Detroit's run defense from one of the league's worst to one of the league's best that year. 

During this past offseason, Harrison let the Lions know he was interested in a contract extension, despite two years remaining on his deal. He opted to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program, as well as mandatory minicamp, decisions he later claimed weren't related to his contract, but to tend to his wife and children during a difficult pregnancy. 

The Lions ended up rewarding Harrison with an extension shortly after he reported to training camp on time. The new pact extended his deal by one year and included a $7.5 million signing bonus. It also lowered his 2019 cap hit by $2.5 million. 

By releasing Harrison, the Lions are still on the hook for a $5 million cap hit in 2020, the remaining prorated portion of that $7.5 million signing bonus. 

Harrison's departure only increases Detroit's need to address the defensive tackle position this offseason. Two other members of last year's rotation, A'Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next month. 

There are a number of enticing options expected to be available on the market, including Kansas City standout Chris Jones and Houston run-stuffer D.J. Reader. In the draft, Auburn's Derrick Brown figures to be in the conversation for Detroit's first-round pick, whether they stay at No. 3 or trade down a few spots. 

Harrison appeared in 25 games for the Lions, starting 24. He tallied 49 tackles, eight for a loss, and 5 1/2 sacks.